Saturday, June 2, 2001

The beach behind the Waikiki Aquarium has been slowly
losing its sand as seen in this file photo from 1995.

Disappearing Waikiki
Beach might gain
federal support

Army engineers study how to
extend the shore and apply funds

By Gary T. Kubota

Federal officials are taking a hard look at the soft sands of Waikiki Beach.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a $75,000 study to see if federal money could be used to help widen the state's most famous and popular beach.

The beach at Waikiki is narrow compared with many other beach resorts, said Sam Lemmo, coastal lands manager for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

"The beach is in pretty poor shape as far as beaches go in these type of resort environments," he said. "In some areas you have no beach whatsoever. In other areas you have beaches that are quite narrow."

Lemmo said the study, to be completed in December, will include an economic evaluation of Waikiki Beach and determine to what extent federal dollars might be used to assist in widening the shoreline.

Some possible ways to widen the beach include obtaining sand from inland sources or offshore.

"I think it's a solvable issue, and it can be done in an environmentally sensitive way," Lemmo said.

Truckloads of sand from Papohaku on Molokai and Kahuku on Oahu were brought in to replenish beaches in Waikiki decades ago.

State officials conducted a demonstration project last year, pumping sand from about 2,000 feet offshore onto Kuhio Beach. The state project was a part of a $412,000 study to redesign the breakwater near Kuhio Beach within Waikiki.

"What it showed was, it was feasible to pump sand," Lemmo said.

Lemmo said the project fell short in pumping the expected amount of sand but demonstrated pumping would not affect water quality or the recreational use of the beaches.

He said the state will not proceed this year with the Kuhio Beach breakwater project because it did not receive the $3 million from the Legislature but will move forward with plans to replenish the beach.

George Downing, a Save Our Surf spokesman, said he is against bringing in sand from outside Waikiki. "It's going to destroy the reef formations," he said.

Downing said seasonal changes in weather and big storms have taken some of the Waikiki sand and deposited it on the nearby reef and onto surf sites and squid holes.

Downing, who worked as a beach boy in Waikiki for 22 years, said he feels the best method is a suction system that takes sand away from the reefs and onto the beach.

Army Corps project manager Jerry Cornell said if Waikiki does not qualify for beach replenishment under existing federal programs, Congress could pass a bill allocating money for it.

Cornell said the Corps is currently gathering information about Waikiki Beach and designing its study.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin